Canadian Barry Publow wins North American Marathon Speedskating Championship

Story by Alexander Harper, BSG News

Fresh off his win at last weekend’s U.S. National marathon, Canada’s Barry Publow repeated as victor of both the 25 km and 50 km events at the North American Marathon Speedskating Championships. Hosted by Vermont’s Montshire Speedskating Club, these races were jointly sanctioned by US Speedskating and Speed Skating Canada, and comprised tour stops 5 and 6 of the Marathon Skating International (MSI) 11-race points series.

Above freezing temperatures and rain in the two days preceding the event melted the remaining snow on Lake Morey, leaving an inch-thick layer of water. Fearing temperatures would not drop in time, event organizers chose to drain the standing water off the 850m triangular course to help facilitate the refreeze. With nigh time temperatures falling to 10 F the majority of the lake was transformed into a virtual mirror of fresh black ice by Saturday morning that is, except for the race course. Despite running the brushes over the surface, the competition ice proved to be rutted, brittle, and grainy.

This year’s field offered a good depth of talent. Making the trip from California was former New Englander Mark Kandola. Mark raced extensively in Europe in the mid-late 90’s and has an impressive race pedigree. Race day temperatures hovered around 25 F and the winds were light. Publow got the action started early in Saturday’s 25 km event by putting down two hard laps straight off the line. Then Youri Juteau (Canada) followed up with two more swift rounds. When Juteau pulled off the front, Derik Beier sensed the field was starting to crack and with Publow in tow picked up the pace even further. The tandem quickly opened a small gap, and with no one willing to put in an effort to chase this early into the 29 lap contest the two skaters worked hard over the next 10 laps to extend their lead over the field. Publow and Beier swapped leads until they had lapped everyone except one skater. With one lap to go 3rd place Juteau dangled just 200m ahead. Publow punched the accelerator in pursuit, catching Juteau at the exit of the final turn and recording the days fastest lap time. Beier crossed the line to seal second, with Juteau rounding out the top 3.

For Sunday’s 50 km Championship event organizers decided to take advantage of the fantastic lake ice outside of the official course and - using parts of the existing 850 m route - created a new 2.1 km circuit. The field remained much the same with the addition of Seattle-based Andy Dahlstrom, another skater who, in the past, has posted some not notch ice marathon results (4th in the 2004 Sylvan Lake 200km Marathon).

This time it was Beier who led out the field onto the wind-swept black ice of Lake Morey. Halfway through the first lap the field was down to only 8 skaters. Publow took over on lap two to keep the pace high, then handed that responsibility over to Dahlstrom. When Dahlstrom relaxed the tempo near the end of lap three Publow attacked hard just before the last turn leading onto the finishing straight. Dahlstrom led the early chase, but it was Juteau who slowly bridged up with only Beier behind. When the two joined Publow, Juteau stood up momentarily to rest, then it was Beier who accelerated. Publow jumped on and the tandem put in four hard laps to finally snap the will of those behind. Dahlstrom caught Juteau and the two skaters tried in vain to close down on Publow and Beier. By the halfway point the duo had lapped the field and extended their lead over the pursuers to 1 minute 30 seconds. With 12 km remaining Beier dropped off the pace while Publow continued on solo to cross first 90 seconds up on his teammate. Two minutes later Dahlstrom out sprinted Juteau for the final podium position.

“I’m glad to be back on the ice with a strong team. It definitely helps motivate me to achieve top results,” said second place Derik Beir.

With five wins and one second place, Publow, 34, is experiencing a second wave of career success in speedskating, but this time on the ice, a trend he hopes will continue into the 2005 inline season.

“I expected both Mark and Andy to be stronger today, but I know this was Mark’s first time on the ice this year”, said Publow of his competition. “Besides, I already have 200+ km of racing in my legs, which goes a long way”.

Along with his duties as Canadian National Team Coach Publow is considering the idea of competing in this year’s World Championships in China.

“If I can carry over my ice form onto wheels this summer I would like to race one more Worlds, but only in the marathon. I’ve never even cracked the top 15 at this level, but it would be quite a personal accomplishment for me to race Worlds in 1994 and then again in 2005”.

The next event on the MSI circuit is the Portland International 50 km Marathon in Portland, Ontario (90 minutes from Ottawa, Canada’s capital) on January 29, 2005. Race director Marco Smits is pleased to announce that his event has been given the right to host the 2006 North American Marathon Championships.